Let me begin by saying what a sabbatical is not. A sabbatical is not a fancy word for a long vacation. Although, I will spend a portion of the time with my family in a vacation period, this is not the purpose of a sabbatical. A sabbatical is not a time to look for other ministry opportunities. I am committed to Oak Crest for the rest of my life, if the Lord is willing to allow that. A sabbatical is not recovery from burn out. I am not burned out, and I am thankful for the opportunity to take sabbatical at a time when we are experiencing health as a church. Finally, a sabbatical is not a result of any problem in the life of the church. Our planning for sabbatical has been in the works with the Personnel Committee for several years.
So what is a sabbatical? It is a continuation of my pastoral ministry in a different format for a brief period. A sabbatical allows for very concentrated spiritual study and renewal. The word itself is based on the biblical idea of a Sabbath rest. In the New Testament, we have clear evidence that Jesus often withdrew from the crowds for a time of intimate communion with the Father. He was not withdrawing for the sake of neglecting the needs of the crowd, but to be equipped to meet the needs of the crowds in accordance with his mission. A sabbatical is a time of refocusing on the mission. What is God’s desire for Oak Crest? What are areas I have neglected in my life and ministry? What are blind spots I have become numb to after almost 9 years at Oak Crest? These and many more questions will be the subject of my prayer and study over the next three months.
What will I do on sabbatical? I plan to be in contact often with the elders, as well as keeping all of you posted on the progress and happenings of my time away. I have a stack of books that I will read and study, not the least of which is the Bible. One of my goals is to plan my preaching schedule of the next couple of years. This planning is always an intimate time with the Lord, and I am excited to do it with 100% focus on God’s will for his church at Oak Crest. During the first couple of weeks, we have planned to spend some time together as a family. I am so thankful for my sweet wife and children. They will be reminded that they are my first ministry responsibility. During this time we will visit several different churches. I am not visiting churches to “get ideas,” rather to be reminded that the Kingdom of God is larger than any one church. Additionally, these visits will allow me and my family to be edified and fed from the giftedness of others. The largest portion of my time will be spent in Boston and the surrounding area of New England. I am excited to immerse myself in biblical and Puritan studies for an extended time. God willing I will have the opportunity to spend some time at the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, as well as visiting other notable seminaries in the area. All of this is with the goal in mind of my own spiritual renewal as well as renewal at Oak Crest.
How can you pray for me? Please pray that I will make the most of every moment of this opportunity. Pray that Oak Crest will thrive in my absence as our elders, deacons, and committees look after the flock. Pray that God will grant me wisdom, knowledge, and a deeper love for him. Pray that my love for you and your love for me will grow in our absence from one another.
I want to close with a challenge to each of you. As excited as I am about this time of renewal, I do have anxiety. I am not anxious to leave you. I love each of you deeply and I want to see you grow in Christ and share his gospel with others. Please don’t neglect the assembling of yourselves together in my absence. God has granted Oak Crest many men who are apt in the preaching and teaching of the Word. Hearing from them over the next few weeks will bless you and benefit you greatly. Don’t neglect to faithfully support the ministry with your finances and giftedness. The ministry must not slow in the slightest degree. There is too much to do, there are too many needs to meet. There is no vacation from serving Christ, even on sabbatical. This will be a time of testing. Are we as healthy as we hope and pray we are? If we are, the absence of no single individual, even the “senior” pastor, will not negatively impact the church at all. In fact, if anything slows in the next three months it is a sign that something is amiss. Our goal has always been to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Now is the time to exercise that equipping according to your giftedness. May God be glorified in Oak Crest in the coming days.